I don’t know when exactly it started, but over the last several years I’ve become increasingly enamored with horses. I find them to be stunning animals and am always SO excited when I see them in my travels.
While browsing around online looking up things to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (the location of my friend’s destination wedding), I came across horseback riding tours which looked amazing, but I initially thought there wouldn’t be enough time to do a tour, especially considering I was there for my friend’s wedding and that was the priority. However, I just kept coming back to it as a potential activity. Finally, after going back and forth, while en route to San Miguel from Mexico City, I bit the bullet and decided to do the tour.
There are several tours to choose from and I actually approached one company recommended by my hotel first, but alas, they were leaving too late in the day for me to go and make it back in time for my friend’s wedding. So I went with my second choice, which honestly should have been my first from the beginning (they are the #1 horseback riding tour in San Miguel de Allende on TripAdvisor, after all): Rancho Xotolar.
(Btw, this is not a sponsored post. I just loved my tour so much I felt I needed to dedicate an entire blog post to it 😀).
Fast forward to the morning of my tour. Tomás, one of the brothers who runs Rancho Xotolar, picked me up right on time before heading to pick up a few other people and then continuing on to their ranch, located about 40 minutes outside of San Miguel de Allende.
One of the things that’s so special about Rancho Xotolar is that it’s a family-owned and operated ranch, so everyone pitches in somehow. Tomás and Leo are the brothers who run the tour but there are other brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and so on who also work on the ranch in some capacity, and it’s this family dynamic that is so apparent throughout the tour that makes it a special experience.
First, we started by observing how a calf feeds from its mother, and then we got to milk the cow ourselves! This was a completely new experience for this city girl, and it was really fascinating to see how quickly the ranch hands do it and then give it a go myself. We then learned how the cow’s milk would be used to make queso fresco cheese, which we’d enjoy after the horseback ride.
After a quick tutorial on how to properly ride a horse (something I very much appreciated as so many tours just plop you on the horse and that’s it), we took off on our 2.5-hour tour. And it was incredible!
We were six riders in total, four of us doing the half-day tour while a lovely couple from Chicago signed on for a full-day tour. Leo and several of his brothers joined us and were great about guiding the horses along the way or, in my case, motivating my very lovely but slightly relaxed (read: lazy) horse, Brandy, to pick up the pace. All of the horses were clearly well cared for, and I learned from one of the men that they alternate the horses for these tours so that they’re not doing these rides too much (though they are working horses by nature so they’re used to longer rides).
The day itself was also gorgeous – perfect for riding through a valley, across streams, in streams and up mountains. But my absolutely FAVORITE part of the entire tour was getting to trot and canter on our horses (more so the cantering as I haven’t quite mastered being on a horse when it’s trotting and not feeling like I’m on top of a giant jackhammer). Here’s my cantering in action:
After our ride was over, we quickly cleaned up and then walked over to a beautiful building with gorgeous views looking out on the ranch. Once there, we sat down with two of the men, Felix and his son Gustavo, to one of my favorite meals in Mexico: a lunch of enchiladas, rice, bean soup, sopes, our homemade queso fresco, salsa, pico de gallo made with cactus and fresh tamarind juice. It was the perfect ending to the perfect half-day tour.
After lunch (and some brief bonding with a donkey hanging out nearby), we got in the car and drove back to San Miguel de Allende, where I then spent the rest of the day celebrating at my friend’s magical wedding.
I can’t wait for the day I’ll be back at Rancho Xotolar (and there will be a day I go back). Until then, I’ll just relive my Mexican horseback adventures with my horse friend Brandy through my iPhone...